Chronicles in Potty Training: Part (Doing Number) 2

Or: 5 Signs you Might Have a Strong Willed Child

I’m always trying to help you guys by sharing my mistakes and nonsense as well as the super dope genius moves that make me average AF. I can claim neither here so I must instead pivot to how to recognize if your kid is like mine and you need to chill out with your “training” and let your kid call the shots.

After about a week plus of no accidents, we noticed a pattern developing. She was more than happy to go to the potty to pee, but was perfectly content to hold number 2 until she got her nighttime diaper. I had no idea how to remedy this. I turned again to our preschool for guidance and the teachers again told me to keep my helicopter on the ground and let her do her thing.

To refresh you we’ve been doing no diapers during the day, a diaper for sleep. One of my favorite potty cues that she gives is when she hides in my closet and looks at all my purses. That is her #2 tell.

One night we were watching The Boxtrolls in bed together before Daddy came home and she goes “mommy I want to look at your purses”. My helicopter lifts off the ground and is like THIS IS IT. Then I recalled my advise from the teachers and was like ok ok ok what do I do here, I can’t do anything I am going to nothing. Ok I am going to suggest. I am going to suggest here, that’s the plan. “Why don’t you sit on your potty before you come back to finish the Box Trolls” I said in my creepy yet adorable Boxtroll voice. It doesn’t count as parenting when the instruction is coming from a Boxtroll. She answered “Yes” in her Boxtroll voice and I don’t know what made me prouder: that she does voices, or that I was right I can talk Boxtroll and she’ll listen.

She asked for privacy and walked down to her potty. I heard a scream. A legit scream. I run down the hall and I see her standing next to her potty screaming and pointing at a gigantic poop that missed the toilet. She told me she started to poop and panicked so she stood up and that’s how it got there. I hate poop y’all. Hate it. I threw out the rug. I wasn’t touching that shit (pun intended). We did a poopoo dance and I said “yo next time stay seated and it will land in the potty”. The next day she did it and just like with #1 she has been very consistent since.

So while the story of the poop on the ground is gross and awesome, I figured it might be more helpful to let you know what a “strong willed” child is like so that you can maybe avoid the headache of trying to train a kid who probably wants to train herself.

5 Signs You Might Have a Strong Willed Child

If your kid fits the following descriptions, keep your helicopter on the ground:

1) Asks “Why” a lot. Strong willed kids need the reasons behind pretty much every limit you set. When I say to Mickey “Hey don’t run by the pool” she always says “Why I can’t run? I can run on the grass though yes?”

2) Whenever you do offer reasons to do or not do something, your negotiator finds loopholes and technicalities within EVERYTHING. If you tell The Handful not to eat grapes, she’ll grab a raisin and say “I can eat this”.

3) They like to make up the games and the rules and like to tell people where to stand etc – some people say Bossy, I prefer Leader. They’re leading people to their vision!

4) Flat out refusal when it comes to things they don’t want to do. Screw capability, it’s all about control here. They might know their colors or their numbers backwards and forwards but when they don’t want to show you which one is yellow they either pretend not to hear you, completely change tasks or bust out into a rager on the floor. The Handful can run across the balance beam when she chooses, or she can demand a coach’s hand just because she’s in the mood.

5) They move at their pace. Interesting things get all their energy and attention, not interesting things or y’know, walking to the car can take a glacial pace. The Handful’s aunt caught this early on. I was concerned The Handful didn’t know her colors but she was showing her aunt and grandma all the colors correctly. Her aunt told me that she obviously knows them, the issue was she didn’t want me quizzing her on them so when I would say “show me yellow” she would pretend not to know. I can’t even you guys. I was like omg she knew the whole time and was legit tricking me.

While the above list can seem general, the strong willed kid will be “extra” of those. You’ll be like oh wow all five of those really describe my kid if you have a strong willed one. If that’s your Future Leader then from our experience I can say let them take over. Learning this about The Handful has made setting limits and expectations way easier. That’s all I got for ya, I’ll keep sharing as I keep learning (and cleaning poop).  Oh and this, I met this super nice chick in the bathroom who was so wise when she counseled me “I’ve never seen a seven year old in diapers”.  Yes.  YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Also, how are you veteran moms doing the public bathrooms?  How do you poop them on the go?  Do I carry around a to-go potty?  What are my moves here people, I’m only used to home games …!!!!

Chronicles in Potty Training: The Pee Pee Diaries

How we got off the Struggle Bus to Potty Town and landed some pee in the potty.

Peer pressure and fancy big girl undies with some strategic bribery was the magic cocktail, however it was more than that too. I’ll start from day one of potty training to get you to here where we’re finally having some successes.

When I was still taking Mommy & Me Class, a lot of the moms brought up the concept of “diaper free before age 3”. Self explanatory. Sounds legit, I said – and feeling pressure from my teacher and the other moms we began the process SUPER early around the 14 month mark. So, well before her second birthday we had a full potty ready to go. I should remind you #TheHandful did not walk until she was 16 or 17 months old, but peer pressure works on moms too and I wanted to get it going. As you can imagine there was zero success.

I have a friend who has a child a little older than #TheHandful who wrote a blog post about taking a break from potty training with her little one and I was like ok I think that sounds right for us. After a few months of no results we abandoned the whole thing too.

During that time my mom friends were all actively engaged in various forms of potty training. One involved WAKING your kid during the night to schedule a pee time and then put them back to sleep. Anything that involves me putting my kid back down to sleep is a hard NO for me. Pass. But these conversations were gnawing at me making me feel like I was lazy for not trying anymore. So to feel less lazy, I did the laziest thing I could and put out the little Bjorn potties in each bathroom. Potties are available and accessible and I’ll say nothing just let her explore.

To get through the days she was living in diapers and on the occasions she was diaper free she was happy to hold her pee as long as possible until she was given a diaper. So on the one or two random experiment days when I had her be diaper free for the day, she just waited til her naps when she was given her only diaper and would pee then. Just keep failing, just keep failing was all I could feel about myself. I don’t know what it is about looking at other moms but other moms always seem to have it going on. Why does it seem like everyone is potty trained when I know logically there are kids still in diapers. Perception is not reality when it comes to gauging what’s going on with any one given milestone.

Operation Visible Potty was in effect when we initially toured our preschool. The director of the school met with #TheHandful and described her as strong-willed. She noted that strong-willed children cannot be coerced into potty training, but that they have to arrive at the decision themselves. She told me to back way off (which truth be told I was doing NOTHING at that point anyway in complete confusion) and let #TheHandful call the shots entirely. Good enough for me, I already don’t know what I’m doing and tell me more about how my child is strong-willed, is that code for future genius?

Then, in September, right before #TheHandful turned 2.5 she started preschool. She’s one of the younger ones in her class that has two or three potty trained girls in it. Let me tell you something, when two cool girls from your class are showing off their big girl underwear and taking trips to the potty all of the sudden your Doc McStuffins pull ups feel super lame. I know this because that’s literally what she told me: “I don’t want to wear a diaper like a baby, I want to wear big girl undies like my friends”. Quick trip to the Target and ten pairs of Elsa Anna undies later we had some excitement about the potty going on!! This is the most potty-action we’ve had in months!!!

Here we are, big girl undies obtained, picking out her outfit for the next day and I start freaking out. I didn’t train her, she has not peed once on our potty and I’m gonna send her off to her poor teachers and be like “She’s not wearing a diaper, good luck bye!”

Because that’s exactly what happened. I legit packed her up a spare outfit, walked her into the classroom and said “No diaper today, bye”. And the two teachers look up in surprise and beg: “Has she gone yet in the potty?” so then I pull my Cool Mom Shades on to hide before answering “Errr, nope!” with some false confidence. And then I ran. Bye Mickey-Felicia.

Because I’m the best partner ever, I didn’t even tell Baby Daddy about this decision to send her diaper-less until AFTER I dropped her off. If he even breathed a word of caution or negative about the plan I might have abandoned it – rather ask forgiveness than permission! And he did exactly that when I told him, he was all OMG is that even allowed you’re evil! Maybe, but I had a gut instinct to just let #TheHandful do her thing, she had requested the undies after all. And if there’s anything we all know it’s that when I have a gut instinct it absolutely results in some type of blog post.

Three hours later it’s time for pick up and I’m floored to see she’s in her original outfit and completely dry. Our teacher informs me that she had no accidents but she held it all day. As much as I expected that, I still felt it was a small victory because she demonstrated she didn’t need me parroting next to her “REMEMBER YOU’RE NOT WEARING A DIAPER” every thirty seconds. We get home and she pees in her pull ups, but I go right back to the undies after her nap.

Day two, same thing. Day three she pees at school! Because she pees at school I buy her a Barbie doll (because FEMINISM) and let her take her nap in her undies not a diaper. No accident. That night we promise her more rewards or treats for future potty deposits.

Day four, holds all day. Day five, accident at school. She took a few trips to the bathroom but timed it off or something and post potty trip had an accident in the classroom. No biggie.

Day six and day seven she pees in our home potty. Now only diapers at night.

Day eight we go to Gymnastics without a diaper. She is able to hold herself on the bar and do tumbling with no accidents. We come home and she goes to the potty.

So here we are decently comfortable taking trips without diapers with occasional accidents. I’d say we’re on the way to success but the biggest factor was letting #TheHandful lead. Our school director was 100% right when she said back way off of this one and let her do it. Letting her do it has been considerably more pleasant than the alternative and has been the only way we have seen results.

What potty-training techniques have worked for you? Were all your kids the same? Drop me a note, I could use all the advice you have!!

Genius Worksheets

Need some in-flight genius-making materials?  I got you. 

Our crew is about to brave the skies for a family trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Stressed about how to occupy my 2.5 year old, I reached out to mahhh girl Jessica at for some brain activities to keep a Future Leader busy on the flight. She suggested a maze to start with so we could practice some fine motor skills. I copy/pasted the Thanksgiving themed one below if anyone wants to print it – but if your kid is beyond the mazes and is ready for math problems, crossword puzzles, matching words to images, subtraction or division then head here and you can smarten up your kid on the way to the festivities. Boom! Parenting win.

For more fun math activities, go to

Print those things out and grab some crayons and you got this!



Four Ways to Pick (And Love) Your Preschool

For many parents deciding where, for how long and how often their first born is going to go to school can be intimidating and downright confusing. Living in a city presents a specifically unique challenge called: over saturation. There are hundreds of schools to choose from in the LA area. Even when you reduce your radii to walkable distances you can STILL have more than a few choices. It’s a very different challenge than my friends in Jackson Hole and Miramar Beach who have the opposite problem: limited options. Because there are so many schools out here you have to visit them to choose one that has a philosophy you agree with. Yeah, there are philosophies. Not only that, but as a Stay-at-Home-Mom who loves spending every single second with my girl, it was hard for me to find a place that I felt could justify losing the extra bonding time we were getting. Plus, I read a few articles on holding your kid until they’re older for preschool so I was using that as my reason to start her later too.

So we did our due diligence and toured a few schools and nothing was impressing me, actually one (expensive one) concerned me and I was more resolved than ever to hold her. I felt good about my decision as I drove her to ballet and gymnastics arguing that she had friends in those classes and did not seem to be socially behind.

But then three things happened: 1) We moved. In our new neighborhood there were only three choices for school. 2) My Sister in Law (who is a preschool teacher) explained that there’s a difference in socializing when mom’s around vs when mom’s not around. 3) I saw a bunch of #TheHandful’s friends had started preschool and realized we were going to have a tough time keeping play dates with everyone busy at school.

So, I panicked!!! But this has a happy ending thanks to some great advice and quick thinking and my panic is your gain per usual. Here’s what I learned from my experience in choosing (and now LOVING) our school and hopefully you can avoid the PSP’s (pre school panics, come on!).


4) Gate Crash.

Tour at an off time. Go when the kids are all there, not before or after school. We surprised every single spot and were glad each time. At the school we chose they were happy to show us everyone and everything. At the one that concerned me I let myself in the gate, wandered around and witnessed a staff altercation and a fight between children over a toy that was not broken up. The sales pitch means nothing, actions speak louder than words. If the staff seems tired and irritated or is bickering, it’s probably not a happy environment – and they’ll be less patient with your Future President who requires a ton of patience.

3) Waitlist Schmaitlist.

In LA it’s easy to get caught up in the “wait list” drama that hits you the second you make your pregnancy FBO. It’s like you don’t even know the gender of your bump and people are all “better get on the Sunnyside wait list”. Let me tell you this, these places are businesses. They want your money. You want to give them your money? I assure you they’ll take it. Don’t let the rumor of a long waitlist elevate a school in your head before you get there, that’s like saying a nightclub is cool because you see a long line. Only you the parents know what’s going to work for your Future Leader.

2) Be Informed.

If you’re in a big city like New York or LA, then yes you do want to know the difference between Reggio-inspired, RIE-based, Montessori style, Play-Based and various other philosophies different schools apply. If you want your Future Leader able to rip out the alphabet and do math then you probably want a more academic-geared operation vs the play-based alternatives that favor free play over structured time. Same goes for you smaller city folk. Think because you’re locked into the only local school that their way is gospel? Hell no, you have to read up too! How are you going to navigate playdate conflicts over toy sharing if you aren’t up to speed on the language everyone is using for taking turns? If you’re concerned at your lack of school choice then you really want to read up on things so you can apply what you learn to your house and compensate for the program you don’t have access to.


Hit up the tour director with everything you got. Read a potty training article that resonates with you? Ask the tour director about it, see how current they are. See if they read the stuff you read. That’s a big deal. If you’re super into a certain theory, you’re gonna want the educators and people influencing your kid to be in step with your beliefs. Gotta ask the questions to get the answers. Who cares what the other parents on the tour think, half of them ain’t going there anyway (and depending on the answers you might not either) and the other half might be like “oh yeah I didn’t think of that”. The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.

So off that list, I did all of those things. We wound up where we wound up because the second we set foot on their campus I had a great feeling from the energy of all the people we met. I was encouraged by how they comforted an upset child and I was impressed with how they accurately assessed #TheHandful. And, despite school having started and been in session for over a week, they were able to make room for us in the three day a week program. I had many questions which were answered with laughter and patience but we left our tour enrolled in school and starting the next day. For her part, #TheHandful has loved it from day one and begs to go to school even on the weekends. Don’t fear the process, just know your options, stay informed and go with your gut.

Backyards …

As I mentioned earlier, we’re currently mid-move.  Our new house has a pool within the sub division, but we won’t have one in our backyard which means we can get a backyard play set!!!  In the house we’re in now, the pool dominates the yard and The Handful can’t really go out there without heavy supervision, so we are beyond excited to be able to let her go in our (very fenced in!) backyard at the new house.  As a HelicopTiger Mom, I naturally reached out to my arsenal of experts to get the latest and greatest info on what to buy for your Future President to (*train*) I mean play on in the ol’ yard …

So I dial up my girl Marissa at Consumer Affairs.  That’s right, I have friends all the way up at Consumer Affairs people, not messing around with this!  My girl Marissa at Consumer Affairs hooked me up with the most comprehensive guide ever to the latest backyard equipment.  While we’re still between play sets and I’ll obvs share when we pick the final one, I have to share her guide because the information is excellent for anyone in the market!

Here’s the link to Consumer Affairs’ Backyard Play Set Research for your reference.  It’s got safety reviews, pricing, where-to-buy and other comparable brands all on one page.

Hope this helps in anyone else’s quest to figure out the ins and outs of play set purchasing 🙂

Cool Mom Jamie Newsletter


It’s been a busy summer for our family and now with Mickey in school a few days a week I have more time to get organized and get caught up. I say caught up because we’re mid-move to a new town, we’ve joined a Temple and Mickey is in school (so obvs I am going to be in the PTA!!!), so there is a LOT to get done these days. Also, I find packing lunch difficult, anyone else stare at the empty lunchbox wondering “what do I put in here?” … No? Just me? I swear it takes me extra time to pack that thing because I have to think hard the whole time. Because I’m so extra, I also signed up for Doula Training and have been shooting exciting stuff for a Netflix show while maintaining The Handful’s swimming, ballet and gymnastics activities. Needless to say my hands are full. Oh and failing miserably at potty training. I’m on my third book. I’m praying the preschool helps!

My next few posts are going to be about Preschool, a Cool Mom Jamie Book List (a list and blurb about books to get for YOU, not for the kiddies); Moving; Special Project Announcement. So keep checking back here for the latest posts because the busier I am, the more efficient I am!

Lastly, because it’s Monday and we sometimes need a little help on Mondays, please enjoy this excerpt from my current FAVORITE parenting book “Parenting As A Second Language” by Elisabeth Stitt and Valerie Alexander. It’s the perfect “Mindful Parent” Clapback for the ever-frustrating question: What do you DO all day??  I met Elisabeth at a parenting conference and was really impressed with her Joyful Parenting approach and then after reading her book I was like omg, people should read this one because I couldn’t put it down – actually she wound up being the inspiration for my upcoming book list post!  Below is the excerpt that reeled me in and I felt like because it’s Monday maybe you need to remind yourself of this stuff too so here you go:

“Mindful Parent” Clapback for the ever-frustrating question: What do you DO all day??

“I’ll tell you what I did: I gave a Deluxe Diaper change – I taught Bobby to trust me by responding to his needs right away!

  • I strengthened his eyes by getting close and pulling away.
  • I made him aware of his body by nibbling on his toes.
  • I bonded with him by giving him a massage before I put his clean diaper on.
  • I taught him to count while doing the snaps on his onsesie.

You see how a mundane task has become a major parenting moment? … You may be worried that you have to be doing something special or grand to be a good parent, but it really is each individual moment that counts” (page 39, Parenting As A Second Language)

SO, consider that the next time someone says “what do you do all day?” you can remind yourself and the rude person exactly how important what you’re doing is.  Mindfully 😉

STAY TUNED! Lot going on and a lot coming up 🙂


Fall is awesome.  Fall means: BACK TO SCHOOL.

For the first time ever, Mickey is in school and while we’re still adjusting (ok I’m still adjusting), we’re both digging the arrangement.  Jessica Lightle from gave me some great ideas for fun fall activities and I was so impressed I asked her to write a guest post!  Here Jessica is going to explain Sorting and Ordering Leaves – and you’ll notice right away why I like it, she incorporates NARRATION and learning into the activity.  That has Cool Mom Jamie approval all over it!  Check out her guest post below and be sure to check out their site for the latest updates in education.

Sorting and Ordering: Collect Autumn Leaves!

Preschool Holidays & Seasons Activities: Sorting and Ordering: Collect Autumn Leaves!

What You Need:

  • 4-5 different-sized leaves
  • 12″ x 18″ construction paper or two 8.5″ x 11″ papers taped together
  • Glue

What You Do:

  1. Take a nature walk. Gather four or five of your child’s favorite colored leaves from a park or your backyard. If you live in a four-season climate, take advantage of the brilliant crimson, gold, and brown leaves. If you live in an all-year sunny climate, just collect interesting leaves of various types and sizes.
  2. When you get home, spread the leaves around your work table. Point out the different sizes of leaves to your child, small, medium, and large. Ask her to put the leaves in piles of small, medium, and large. For very young kids, you can sort into just small and large leaves.
  3. Put your large piece of construction paper on the table. Tell your child she can line the leaves up from smallest to largest. Have her put the smallest leaf to the left and the biggest leaf on the right side of the paper. Continue asking her questions such as “Which leaf comes next? Which leaf is the next biggest?”
  4. Once she has them lined up correctly, show her how to make small dots of glue on the backs of the leaves. She can then glue the leaves on the paper from smallest to largest. (Make sure she glues them back on in the right place.)
  5. Have her write her name on the paper and lay it aside to dry.

When it’s finished, you now have a wonderful, autumn leaf collection to hang on your wall as a decoration. Refer back to this helpful visual whenever you ask your child questions about relative size. You can also use it to discuss with her the four seasons and how the trees change with each season.

SEE! It’s a good idea!  Go check out their site for the latest in all things education.  And check back here soon for new posts including interviews with experts and a blog post about preschool!!


How to Celebrate National Breastfeeding Week When You Can’t

How to Celebrate National Breastfeeding Week When You Can’t

You probably saw the hashtag trending on your Twitter or your Insta, but this is #nationabreastfeedingweek.  What if you can’t?  A little about me: I have flat nipples. This made breastfeeding painful so I quit. I tried for a few days, cracked a nip in half and threw in the towel. Got myself a nice expensive breast pump and relieved my boobs upwards of 6 times a day in the beginning. For me, exclusive pumping was the solution because I couldn’t tolerate the painful, full feeling of milk filled boob. I described pumping to Baby Daddy in this way: that relief you feel when you finally get to pee after holding it for a while? That’s pumping, boob peeing. Except you can’t hold it in like you can hold pee in, so when your boobs get too full they just start spraying and leaking. Therefore draining those suckers became life. I was not concerned about making enough milk to feed my Future President, my problem was teeny boobies + too much milk. My A cups swelled up to an almost-C and it felt like there was not enough skin to stretch, especially when I went too long between pumps. So what’s a gal to do on social media today with all these Earth Goddess Mothers and their #nationalbreastfeeding hashtags?

How to Feel Cool When Hashtags Got You Down: My Five Step Plan

1) Yeah, that’s right mixing it up and starting with 1 this time. First, acknowledge your feelings, you’re allowed to have them. I actually felt like “less” of a woman when we struggled to breastfeed and that’s a shitty feeling. I don’t want you to linger on the negatives, acknowledge them like the street harassers they are and then keep it moving. “Ok I feel shitty about myself” – now, get your logic talking. Fed is best. Say it with me. Fed is best. The mommy’s job is to care for the baby and the best way to care for the baby is to feed the baby

2) Find your struggle and SHARE it. That’s right, even you shy people. Talk. You’re not alone – my flat nipples have been such a great conversation starter!! Having trouble making a mom friend? Share your feeding story. The more conversations we have about the struggles and the challenges of feeding, the less alone other moms are going to feel. Talk about your surprises in the process. Soon-to-be Moms deserve to know ahead of time that breastfeeding is hard. Use the hashtag to raise awareness about your own struggles.

3) Keep perspective: by the time they’re 5 you’ll have new worries! Sure this sucks now, but it’s basic training for the bigger hurdles coming at you down the road. You’re going to have a lot of situations that don’t go as planned, this is just the first. Wait til they want the iPhone16 when they’re 5 because everyone in the kindergarten has one.

4) Talk to experts. I met with a few lactation consultants, met with a pediatrician and even had a post-birth doula give my boobies a squeeze. While they all offered some education, a few tips and a calming energy, ultimately my flat nipples were not having it. I felt less loser-y after 17 confirmations by experts that my nipples were going to be a problem. For some reason having them confirm it made me feel like less of a quitter.

5) Which brings me to this, YOU ARE NOT A QUITTER. You are an amazing mother. Amazing. Believe that statement because it’s true. Breastfeeding challenges suck because they’re unexpected and gnaw at your identity as a woman. But guess what, you’re the mom, the matriarch and the provider of life and love and because you love your children you’re going to do the best you can for them. And that makes you amazing. Checking your pride and humbling yourself to the transitional process that is becoming a mother is what makes you an amazing woman.

I hope by sharing my struggle to breastfeed that I can help normalize ALL the ways women feed their children. I think it’s amazing that all the mothers who can breastfeed do, and I think the sacrifices that come with exclusive pumping and the challenges of formula feeding belong as part of that hashtag.


Hope everyone is staying cool so far! I brought back my buddy Thorough Jim (I’m pretty sure the lol he used in his email reply was approval for that nickname?) for our final SUMMER SAFETY SERIES topic: PLAYGROUND SAFETY!  We’re talking both private backyard safety and public park best practices today.

Maybe you’re well versed in Boo-Boo’s and Owwies because your kid’s a Tazmanian Devil or maybe you’re a park first timer who is freaking out about the impending doom that the playground brings … don’t worry, me and Thorough Jim (nee: James DeCarli) have all the info you need to keep everyone safe. As a reminder, Jim has the following letters behind his name, so you know he’s legit: PhD, MPH, MPA, MCHES and he runs a company ALL about safety called Pro Consumer Safety.

Anyways, I reached out to my boy and asked him the important stuff for us and this what he had to say:

As owners of a backyard playground, what are common pitfalls and dangers in a private home and what can the homeowner do to keep everyone safe?

  1. What steps should homeowners take to keep their child-guests safe when they have a swing-set/ginormous climbing apparatus in the yard?

For any backyard playground, homeowners need to follow the age-appropriate recommendations before allowing children to use the playset. Most playsets have recommendations for specific age groups such as “not recommended for younger than 2-years”, to “2-5 years” or “6-12 years”. So always follow recommendations before allowing use. Further, before allowing a child on the playground, make sure the child removes loose clothing, drawstrings, clothing with hoods, jewelry, scarves, opened-toed shoes, long or loose shoe laces, and no bicycle helmets. These items can easily catch on equipment causing strangulation or severe falls.

The National Program for Playground Safety recommends using S.A.F.E. to assess the safety of playgrounds. Keep in mind that once a new playset is properly installed, meeting local and state safety codes (check with your local city or county building department for safety requirements), will deteriorate overtime, so regular assessment before use is always recommended. Using S.A.F.E. can help. Whereas:

  • “S” is for supervision. Adults need to be actively watching, listening and viewing all children on the playground and this includes watching those in crawl spaces as well.
  • “A” is for age-appropriate. The adults need to make sure only children using the playground are at the appropriate age for use. Age categories include 2-5 and 6-12. Playgrounds are designed differently to accommodate the average size and developmental ability of the child applied to slides, platforms, guardrails, etc.
  • “F” is for fall surface.  The appropriate surface under the playground and to at least 6-feet surrounding it should be of loose fill such as 12-inches of sand, engineered wood fiber, or gravel. Surfaces NOT recommended include grass, dirt, asphalt, and concrete.
  • “E” is for equipment maintenance. As mentioned, playground equipment when new, and installed properly, will deteriorate overtime with use and among both hot and cold weather conditions. Make the playset is free of rust, broken parts, splinters in wood, cracks, holes, protruding bolts, etc. In addition is the condition of the surface which can change with time among both with use and weather conditions.

Homeowners can download the Playground Safety Report Card to assess their own playground. If a homeowner is having a new playground built it is recommended to always check with the city or county building department for specific building requirements.

  1. What is the number one most preventable (excluding pool related) injury on the backyard play set?

The number one most preventable injury on any playgrounds is falls. In general, most injuries happen at public and school playgrounds because there are more children at these locations. However, injuries from home playgrounds are found to be more severe, resulting in concussion to broken bones. Falls are most common from swings and slides, followed by climbers. Fall related playground injuries at home playground are usually from lack of proper playground surfacing and maintenance (not checking surface conditions, rusty, loose equipment and bolts), followed by lack of proper installation and supervision.  To help prevent such injuries home playgrounds must have appropriate landing surfaces under and up to 6-feet around the playground, recommended at least 12-inches thick (sand, engineered wood fiber, or gravel). In addition, when shopping for surfacing, be aware of the types of surfaces, what they are made of and are free of environmental hazards. The Health Schools Network, Inc. provides recommendations that include playgrounds and toxic threats for surfaces.

  1. Do you see parents making a recurring mistake when it comes to backyard safety?

One of the most common mistakes that parents make over and over regarding backyard safety is lack of appropriate supervision, followed by not having proper layers of protection or use safety equipment.

SUPERVISION & CHILD DEVELOPMENTAL GROWTH: As the child grows, parents often miss developmental markers of the child and how the backyard environment can influence risk. For example, as an infant who is learning to crawl and walk, carriers a different risk. Whereas supervision by the caregiver is generally “within-arms-reach” at all times. Equally as risky are toddlers. As they become mobile, walking and running, they easily trip and become distracted easier thus easier at injury risk from exploration and being inquisitive. A typical backyard has many risk factors including pools, ponds, fountains, barbecue grills, tree houses, trees to climb, poisons to multi-levels with hard surfaces, to cactus that has sharp points or stickers, etc. Once children are out of the toddler age, between 5-12, parents often forget and assume this age group is safe now. But they still need supervision. Even at age 13 and over when they are old enough to watch younger siblings for short times, they still can be at risk and often more at more severe risk. Parents often underestimate the risk this age group can get into, especially by not paying attention to their environment, such as a patio roof that is close to a pool, for example. This is just too attractive and easy for an adolescent to think “hey let’s jump from it”. While supervision might not always be constant, parents should assess their backyard and identify environmental conditions that can influence behaviors that can put children at risk of injury. In addition to supervision and layers of protection, parents need to explain to children about the importance of following rules and boundaries. 

PROPER USE OF SAFETY EQUIPMENT: Another common mistake is not using safety equipment or not using it properly. One of the most common is helmet use. California law requires children 17 and younger to wear a helmet properly while riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, or roller blades/skates. It is all too often I see children, as well as adults, not wearing their helmet properly. They wear it incorrectly by wearing it like a hate, far back on their head, exposing the front of their head. This is dangerous while riding a bicycle because with most bicycle crashes, the rider goes forward, over the handlebars where the front of their head hits the ground first. If wearing a helmet like a hat or having it too loose or not buckled snugly will push the helmet off and the front of the rider’s head hits the ground. Often a loose helmet strap can cause the helmet to catch on the bicycle or another fixed item like a car mirror, etc. causing the rider’s neck to twist or be torn, causing neck injury. While California law requires helmets in public locations, in the backyard children can still be injured from not wearing the helmet or not wearing it properly. The proper way to wear a bicycle helmet is flat on the head just above the child’s eye brows and fasted snugly.

People visiting public playgrounds

  1. What’s the leading playground injury?

The leading playground injury is falls. This includes both at home and at public playgrounds. Most falls at public playgrounds are from swings and slides. Fall-related injury are often due to poor quality surfacing or not maintaining surfaces under slides and swings. These fall-related injuries have resulted in concussion, neck injury to broken bones.

While adult supervision can help prevent these injuries, what is equally as important is for the parent assess the playground before use. Some school and city playgrounds have safety inspectors to make sure it is up to standard and meet regulations. However some playgrounds do not or they might not be inspected often. This will put children at risk of injury hospitalization and death. The National Program for Playground Safety provides State Report Cards on the conditions of playgrounds at schools, child care and parks, by state and U.S. nationwide. California overall was provided a “B-“.  Therefore, it is recommended that parents always check the condition of the public playground before use. While parents can also use S.A.F.E. by using the Playground Safety Report Card to assess its safety before use, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends always check the following before each use:

  • Ensure that surfaces under and around the playground have at least 12-inches thick, and at least 6-feet surrounding the playground equipment, of wood chips, sand, mulch, gravel or mats that are safety tested. For swings this surface must extend back and front that is two times the height of the suspending bar. Make playground surface is in good condition each time before use
  • Make sure playground structures that are more than 30-inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart from each other
  • Check for dangerous hardware conditions such as protruding bolts or opened “S” hooks, especially those that are rusted
  • Check for spaces that can trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs (this space should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches
  • Check for sharp points, edges, wood splinters in equipment
  • Check for tripping hazards such as concrete footings, rocks, tree stumps, etc.
  • Make sure elevated surfaces, ramps and platforms have guardrailsh)Make sure children have no loose clothing, drawstrings, jewelry, scares, bike helmets, or opened-toe shoes.
  1. What should a responsible parent carry with them for first aid when taking the kids to the playground?

Trips to the local playground with your children is a great way for them to exercise, socialize as well as to learn and explore, all while having fun. A responsible and informed parent knows that an injury can happen and must be prepared. Prevention is always first by following S.A.F.E, and specifically active supervision, including making sure the playground is clear of any hazards and while age-appropriate. Most playground injuries are minor. But it is good for a parent to know how to assess the difference and know what to do. This is where basic first aid and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is helpful. The American Red Cross (ARC)has local classes for parents and other caregivers, such as babysitters, available which is highly recommended.

Injuries at the playground are usually minor scrapes and bruises. Remember anytime a child is hurt, as you are aware as a parent, the first action is to help calm them, then get them to a safe location and administering the form of first aid they need. Anytime you feel an injury might be more serious, such as a severe fall, do not move the child and call 911. For minor cuts and scrapes a first aid kit, again knowing how to use it properly by taking a basic first aid class from ARC is recommended. Your basic first aid kit at a playground should include:

For Minor Cuts & Scrapes:

  • Gauze
  • Small scissors for cutting gauze
  • Tweezers (in case of wood splinter-NEVER use for Bee Stinger removal)
  • Rubbing alcohol or antiseptic wash
  • Anti-bacterial cream, gel or spray
  • Adhesive bandages (a variety including triangular and tubular (for fingers, toes, elbows, knees, etc.)

For burns, bites, stings and allergies:

  • Topical burn ointment or spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Anti-itch topical cream (bug bites, bee stings, etc.)
  • If child or caregiver is allergic to Bee stings or not known include an EpiPen (epinephrine injection to prevent anaphylaxis)
  • Any type of poison plant consumption or other poison concern call Poison Control 1-800-222-1222
  1. What are the proper steps for treating a bee sting? 

As a Master of Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES), the following information on steps for treating a bee sting is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. It is provided for educational and awareness purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician or child’s pediatrician can provide you. The following information was obtained from WebMD on first aid for insect sting allergy treatment.

 If history or symptoms of anaphylaxis:

ð      If the child has a history of anaphylaxis, do not wait for signs of a severe reaction, immediately use EpiPin to inject epinephrine. Then immediately call 911.

ð      If the child is experiencing symptoms such as trouble breathing, feeling faintness or dizziness, hives, swollen tongue, immediately use EpiPin to inject epinephrine. Even if you are unsure if the symptoms are related epinephrine will not cause harm, but by not giving the injection could be fatal. If no improvement in symptoms, call 911. Sometimes another injection is necessary if symptoms continue. For children specifically, can be injected again after 5 to 30-minutes. Anytime epinephrine is used, immediately call 911.

If no history or symptoms of anaphylaxis:

Remove the stinger

Scrape the area with the edge of a credit card or straight edge object to remove it

Do not pinch the stinger or use tweezers because this can inject more venom

Control swelling

Ice the area

If stung on arm or leg, keep it elevated above the child’s heart

Remove any tight-fitting jewelry from the sting area. As it swells rings or bracelets might be difficult to remove

If pain continues, call 911 or if not severe ask a pharmacist what over-the-counter medications are recommended for the child’s age. Remember do not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 19

To reduce itching, use anti-itch cream. There are products for children. If unsure check with a pharmacist


Healing can take 2-5 days. Keep the wound clean to prevent infection

  1. What does dehydration look like in kids?

Dehydration happens when the body does not have enough fluid (water and electrolytes-sodium [salts]) to function properly. While the body loses fluid throughout the day from sweating, crying, urinating and bowel movements, and evaporation through the skin and when breathing, this fluid loss is generally balanced by the body’s natural thermoregulatory system and through replacement of regular dietary intake from food and liquid. However, dehydration can occur when this balance is offset. This can happen by having additional fluid loss from having a fever, diarrhea or vomiting, or through excessive exposure to hot temperatures or physical activity. Anytime this fluid loss is unable to be replaced will result in dehydration.

Remember while dehydration can happen at any age, infants and young children are at greater risk of dehydration than older children and adults, because they can lose fluid much more quickly. Further, dehydration among infants and children is not just limited to hot weather during summer months, but year around. One of the most common causes of dehydration in children is acute gastroenteritis (stomach flu) causing fluid loss through vomiting and diarrhea. Parents must recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration and know when to seek medical attention to avoid severe complications or death. The signs of dehydration can range from mild to moderate, and severe.


Mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Playing less than usual
  • Urinating less frequently (for infants less than 6-wet diapers per day)
  • Parched, dry mouth
  • Fewer tears when crying
  • Sunken soft spot of the head in an infant or toddler
  • Stools will be loose if dehydration is caused by diarrhea; if dehydration is due to other fluid loss (vomiting, lack of fluid intake), there is be decreased bowel movements

Severe dehydration (In addition to the “Mild to Moderate” signs)

  • Very fussy
  • Excessively sleepy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Cool, discolored hands and feet
  • Winkled skin
  • Urinates only one to two times per day


Be aware of the signs and symptoms especially during illness such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea for any age. For older children, specifically during exposure to hot weather or physical activity, ensure proper hydration through fluid intake and food energy to replace fluid losses. For any age during extreme heat advisory or strenuous physical outdoor activity keep well hydrated. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides the following links on the causes of dehydration. Each link also explains when to seek medical assistance and preventive recommendations for each cause.

  • Heat Exposure and Reactions from exposure to hot weather, and outdoor and sports activities can result in severe dehydration if not properly hydrated, leading to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
  • Vomiting (with diarrhea), when vomiting and diarrhea happens at the same time, caused by viral infections, food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea, bacterial infections, can cause severe dehydration.
  • Vomiting (without diarrhea), the forceful emptying of what is in the stomach, from stomach infections, food poisoning, ibuprofen overdose, food allergy, coughing, motion sickness, headaches, and serious causes and cyclical vomiting, can cause severe dehydration.
  • Diarrhea, from viruses, bacterial infections, food poisoning, giardia, traveler’s diarrhea, to serious causes and complications can quickly result in severe dehydration.

What’s the big one point takeaway you want the non-reader, readers to know?

“Adult supervision” means watching, listening, seeing the child and being within reach.

OK DEFINITELY re-packing my diaper bag after posting this because I have about nothing useful in it for any disaster outside of hunger and poop.  Will be including MANY of his safety items for sure.  Ok people, as I always say when I interview Jim, print this article and post it where you and your caretakers will see it because the information really can make a difference in a time of need.  STAY SAFE!  Smooches.